Freeing the Productive Forces (II)

Dmitri Prieto

I do not and cannot differ with the idea that freeing the productive forces in Cuba is something necessary, if not indispensable.  I am in favor of freedom for the human being, and part of that freedom is being creative and productive.

So then, what are the alternatives available to a State-run company or budgeted institution that is now faced with the painful obligation of cutting their payroll?  Moreover, how legitimate can those layoffs be in the eyes of their own workers if such alternatives have not been appropriately assessed?

Let me explain.  Companies in Cuba are highly restrained in terms of their own options to produce.  To satisfy their production needs, even when they have funds they often have to buy certain inputs and not others (for example, a certain type of seat or table or computer).  A firm’s social purpose (the group of activities it’s authorized to engage in) is decided exclusively at the central government level by ministerial commissions.  Though there may be activities that entities could successfully undertake, given their capacities, they’re not allowed to owing to some bureaucratic reason.

Let’s imagine a research center that has an outstanding collection of historical items that are set up in an exhibition space.  It would be logical to make these accessible to the public so that they could enjoy these displays of our national heritage.  For this, the center could charge an admission of five pesos (about 25 cents USD) to Cuban citizens and $5 CUC (about $6 USD) to foreigners.  Through the collection of those admissions, wages could be paid and other problems of the workers addressed.  However, it’s not the staff that makes such decisions.

As another example, the same center could give research tutorials could be courses given to foreign university students including post-graduates who come to Cuba to study.  They would pay for the instruction and the employees would benefit from the proceeds generated.  But, it’s not the staff that makes such decisions.

A Casa de Cultura (neighborhood cultural center) could give salsa or rumba dance classes to tourists, or a community workshop could offer courses on Afro-Cuban religions to foreign visitors.  But, it’s not their personnel that make such decisions.

Yesterday I went to buy vegetables at the market.  Though I was one of the first people in line, I had to wait nearly an hour because the salesperson had to fill out and deliver a report to his superiors.  To the bureaucracy, reporting is a key element of people “doing their job.”  As long as the bureaucracy controls the realization of the service —requiring the worker to comply with an important order from above— there was a failure to provide the service.  The bureaucracy only generates orders, regulations, inspections and demands for reports, while the on-line staff of the vegetable market makes no decisions.

Wouldn’t it be therefore be logical —before “freeing” the labor force of their employment contracts— to first give them the freedom to collectively decide what more and how they could produce in the same facility? – “workers control,” they call it.

Cornelius Castoriadis spoke of the “fraudulent bankruptcy” of “real existing socialism” in Europe.  It was not only bankrupt but also fraudulent, because the bureaucracy itself decided to bail out before the crash and to “free the productive forces” (freeing it in the capitalist sense).  So who then became capitalists? Hmmm!

3 thoughts on “Freeing the Productive Forces (II)

  • Dmitri: To free the productive forces it is necessary to reestablish private productive property rights and the trading market. This could and should be done, but cautiously making sure that most significant industry and commerce is cooperativized on the Mondragon corporation model. The socialist state would take a large chunk of non-controlling ownership stock and get ample revenues on a quarterly basis, as the owner/employees distribute profit dividends to themselves.

    Calling for “workers’ control” without “workers’ ownership” is pointless.

  • Thanks Dimitri. You and your fellow Cuban brothers and sisters remained on the Island and I pray
    that the changes will give you a new beginning in life. I am praying that what we’re now witnessing
    will bring a reconciliation with so many Cuban’s living in the USA and those like you who are still
    in Cuba. My friends here in this country (USA) and who came from Cuba are wonderful joyous people.
    Many have bitterness and hatred for any positive news out of Cuba but as an Irish American who was
    raised to hate the British because of what happened in Ireland several decades ago, we now embrace England and are at least talking and interacting. A lesson perhaps?

  • Dmitri
    The failure of the Cuban economy is intentional.
    People have been denied the right to vote. So the only action left was to bankrupt the revolution and that is exactly what they have done!
    Every time some one took something that belong to the state for themselves they did this.
    Some took millions and are still taking millions of dollars
    Some much much less.
    The question is. Are the current changes sufficient?
    My opinion I think the changes are still too restrictive. We like to know also how will they implement the taxation of the new businesses. There is a lot of detail that has not been explained.
    Also can the future employers fire employees at will or will they have to satisfy some bureaucratic requirement?
    Many many questions.
    This companies also will need the ability to import directly from the outside and also be able to export.
    There is so many restrictions that is hard to predict how effective the few new found economic liberties will be.

    Imagined someone for example creating a small clothing factory. They will need to import most of the equipment. So this process should be efficient and transparent and with little or no fees.
    There is also the need of guaranties from the state that they will not confiscate the private property or take property of the capital produced. There is many prior history of this happening in the past in multiple occasions.
    The government in one word is not to be trusted.

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